Korn Drummer Ray Luzier Talks ‘The Path of Totality,’ Van Halen, MCA + More
Korn's latest album 'The Path of Totality' saw the band going in a new musical direction, embracing dubstep and utilizing several different producers including Skrillex. We caught up with drummer Ray Luzier backstage before their set at the Carolina Rebellion Festival. That was the show that featured the surprise return of Brian 'Head' Welch for one song, the first time he performed with the band since 2005.
We talked about the latest CD and the album of the year award at the Revolver Golden Gods. And since Luzier used to play with David Lee Roth, Van Halen's newest release was discussed along with the future of the supergroup Army of Anyone and other topics.
What inspired the musical direction you took on 'The Path of Totality'?
Korn has always had an element of hip-hop, reggae, funk. It's an extreme direction, but to me it's a Korn record at the end of the day. Jon [Davis], for the last several years, has been into dubstep music. He turned us onto Skrillex first, and said he was going to write some words on top of one of these songs. I didn't know if it was going to be a solo project or what it was going to be. He said, “No, I want this to be the new Korn record.” That's basically what happened. We thought maybe we would just make a five song EP. That was the plan, but it spread like wildfire. It was cool.
How did your part of the recording process work?
Jon would meet with most of the producers first, but a lot of the time the drums were the last things laid down. It's usually the opposite. The drums are normally the first thing laid down and everything else goes on top of it. On our last record 'Korn III' we took time off the road and did it organically in a room, old school. We just sat in a room and wrote a song and recorded it 45 minutes later. On this album, Jon would do a vocal in Seoul, Korea. I would do a drum track in Honolulu, Hawaii.
It was a really different process for me, because I'm all about the song. If it calls for a lot of wacky fills or beats I'm all for it. But these songs are so heavy and powerful. The samples that dubstep people use are so massive, I found myself doing extra stuff, and it would ruin the beat and ruin the song. So I ended up playing really simplistic on this record. And live I wanted to make sure I played everything organically, meaning I played every note. We play our set in thirds. The second set is all dubstep, so I switch out my acoustic snare with an electric snare. We had Viggy, Tommy Lee's guy, program everything. He did it so when I hit the snare, it's the verse, and it will change automatically to the chorus snare. So that's how we do it. I play every note live.
How did the actual fan reaction to the direction of the new album compare to what your expectations were of their reaction?
You're always going to piss somebody off. You can't make everyone happy. On the last record we went old school and brought Ross Robinson back (who produced Korn's first two albums), and some people said, “Come on, it's the same old thing!” For this one we went extreme. A lot of fans came up to us at the beginning of the tour and said they were still trying to digest it. Now they have seen it a couple of times, and most of them tell us they love it. I'm also getting emails from 16-year-old Skrillex fans who had never heard of Korn, but bought the record because he (Skrillex) was on it. So we're turning new fans onto it.
You've even made the Billboard dance charts with this one.
It's crazy. We're still No. 5 in Europe. We won album of the year from Revolver. It's kind of nuts to go off into left field like that. You don't know what fans are going to say. Korn fans are so die-hard.
You were in Los Angeles to accept the Revolver Golden God award for best album...
Yes. Me and Fieldy showed up to accept it, but he was with his daughters and ended up leaving early. So I had to accept it by myself. I've been in the band for five years, but haven't been in the band for 19 years like some of the guys. There were a couple of Ray fans there, but most of them were probably looking behind me, wondering where the guy with the dreads was. (laughs) It was an honor. We were nominated for a Grammy for 'Korn III,' and then the album of the year for 'The Path of Totality.' It doesn't suck being in this band right now, that's for sure.
Is there any place you still want to get to and play live?
It's funny you ask that, because we just added India in August, and I've always wanted to go to India. That will be cool. I think it's the first time there for Korn, too. With my previous bands I never got to go to nearly as many places as Korn has. My first tour was South Africa, Dubai, crazy places I never thought I would end up.
When you have some extra time on the road, do you make an effort to see the local sights?
I do, I like to get out. Sometimes I'm a hermit in my hotel room. This band travels nicely, which is good. We stay in nice hotels. All the years when I was with David Lee Roth we ventured out so much and saw a lot of places in the United States and Europe. I love the culture of Europe and venture out. But stateside I'm sometimes a hermit.
What do you think of Van Halen's comeback album 'A Different Kind 0f Truth'?
I didn't like it at first, but now I love it. You look forward to that next record coming out from your favorite bands. It's been a while since I've had the feeling of a new Van Halen record in my hand. But it's funny to me, because when I was in (David Lee Roth's) band he showed me four or five songs from the new record. 'She's The Woman,' 'Tattoo' and all those songs I heard 10 years ago. It was a trip when I heard 'Tattoo' on the radio, because I remember hearing it at Dave's house. I had a grin on my face when I heard these songs now.
You recorded an album in 2006 with Army of Anyone (which also included Richard Patrick from Filter, and Robert and Dean DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots). There have been conflicting reports whether there will be another album. What can you tell us about that band?
It's possible. We are all really good friends. We have a bunch of tunes in the works. I think if the time ever arose where we all could make our schedules fit, it would work out.
Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys just passed away. Did you ever cross paths with him?
I met the Beastie Boys when I was with David Lee Roth. They are huge Van Halen fans. They came out to New York City one time for a show and I had the pleasure of meeting him. He was a real sweetheart of a guy. It's such a shame. He was only 47.